2018: the year in review

2018 year in review

Markets
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Ken Wilcock takes a look back at what made news in 2018.

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JANUARY

First sea shipment of slaughter cattle to China sourced from the Blue Tongue Virus Active Zone (Northern Australia). Exporter NACC pays 285c/kg for the 500-550kg steers delivered Townsville. Queensland meatworks open where 2017 left off at 495c/kg for 4-tooth ox and 435c for heavy cow but these rates quickly come under downward pressure due to strong supply. TFI Murray Bridge suffers huge fire damage. JBS launches Hereford Boss under its Great Southern program. A$ tops US80 cents. NSW agent Tony Fountain dies aged 72.

FEBRUARY

Good rain finally arrives with falls of 50-150mm in a wide band from the southern-border right up through the central-eastern parts of Qld to Cape York but extreme heat robs a lot of the benefit and movement of cattle to slaughter and feedlots is undiminished.

Cyclone activity brings further extensive falls in northern regions late in month. Eight cattle ships loaded out of Townsville in 3 weeks. DEXA scanning equipment installed at Teys Lakes Creek. CAAB beef brand program ends. Wellard announces half-year loss of $7.5m. MLA calls on Cargill to end bovine genome patent claims. Construction starts on Woolworths/Hilton facility at Brisbane.

MARCH

Rain continues in north and central regions causing lost time at central Qld meatworks and a delayed start at Townsville. Ox/cow rates climb to 510/450c. 11 member countries sign revised TPP deal. Kidman launches Santa Gertrudis branded beef program. Rail services disrupted while faults with new cattle wagons are rectified. Supply picks up towards end of month and rates come off 10c.

APRIL

US revises FTA with Korea but gains no additional agricultural benefit. China retaliates against US steel and aluminium impositions with tariffs on American products including 25pc on pork. Dry causes huge influx of cows in the southern markets triggering commencement of another herd liquidation phase. US and Japan discuss bi-lateral trade talks. Karumba livex boost with new dredging program. NAPCO buys Portland Downs for $23m. Elders sell Indonesian feedlot interests. Former tropical breed stud-stock specialist Bruce Clarke dies aged 75. Ox/cow rates back 20c to 475/415c as post-Easter supply builds.

MAY

Increase in live export to China from southern Australia puts squeeze on shipping space. China beef demand has flow-on effect in neighbouring SE Asian countries forcing up prices in north and south Vietnam resulting in increasing imports from Australia. Beef week in Rockhampton hailed as a great success. AACo announces Livingstone abattoir closure. Meatworks hold strong forward bookings and operate full shifts. Beef exports surge to 109,700t highest since 2015. Slaughter female percentage rises to 53.2. Ox/cow rates 470/410c.

JUNE

Cows continue to flood market taking percentage of slaughter nationally to 53.7. Some rain in Victoria and NSW coast but little effect on market. Fake meat takes off internationally with plant-based meat-style product released widely across Britain followed by Woolworths introducing a similar Danish product called Minced across its Australian stores. Beef exports exceed 100,000t once again. Former NAPCO boss Ross Brunckhorst dies aged 83. Ox/cow rates 470/405c.

JULY

Winter tightens southern supply, denies extra cattle for northern processors and takes Saturday shifts off the agenda. AU$ trading under US74c helps Qld processors lift rates to entice extra cattle. Descent into winter proper also helps and Qld supply increases. Southern buyers now operating hard in Qld driving Dalby cows to 259c lw. Thomas Foods and Teys both decide to publish price grids. Wellard vessel Ocean Drover up for sale. Veteran processor Barry Hart dies aged 94.

AUGUST

Dry cold weather increases supply and smothers saleyard-led July price spike. Major Australian Banks belatedly offer Farm Management Deposit offset. Gina Reinhart buys Sundown Valley backgrounding property and Gunnee feedlot. Feed wheat hits $450/t and feedlots struggle to find roughage. Upgrade to Berrimah export yards in NT boosts capacity. WA operator Emanuel loses livex licence. Females hold 52.3pc of kill and beef exports hit 107,000t.

SEPTEMBER

Softening supply brings intense competition once again to Qld saleyards. Dalby reaches 268c for cows, the equivalent of bullock prices. Meatworks increase rates to 510/440c and supply responds. Extreme saleyard rates fall back in line with grid prices. Victorian retail butcher chain Tasman goes into administration. Described as biggest retail failure since Super Butcher. Agriculture Minister announces independent observers on livex ships from October. MD Richard Norton to depart MLA for agency sector role. Females still hold 51.1pc of kill.

OCTOBER

Early rainfall builds to good totals by month’s end. Qld supply drops and ox/cow rates rise to 520/450c. Increased numbers of cows appear in Vic and southern NSW markets and once again attract Qld buyers. Korean safeguard triggered. US and Japan begin trade negotiations. Canada reaches 11th hour agreement with US on NAFTA. Woolworths drop MSA logo from beef packs. EU announces intent to redistribute 45,000t GF quota in favour of US. Rates increase further to 535/460c and females still hold 50.4pc of national kill.

NOVEMBER

Supply continues to fall and works lose time. Ox/cow rates increase to 555/480c. Cows make 268c/kg on the ground at Blackall and 280c high at Dalby. Qld processors operate heavily in southern markets to secure stock. FTA agreement reached with Hong Kong. JBS signs US$1.5b supply deal with Alibaba. AACo announces $68.4m net loss for half-year. NH Foods publish price grids. Argentina regains US market access. Tony Hegarty new CCA president.

DECEMBER

Heat and wind trigger widespread bushfires in central Qld and deteriorating season drives extra numbers forward. Continuing strong supply in south sees large numbers come to Qld where Saturday shifts are reinstated to accommodate the flow. US and China agree to a 90 day ‘ceasefire’ to resolve trade issues. Casino abattoir records full-year loss of $7m. Longreach and Emerald Ag colleges set to close. Much loved and respected live exporter John Kaus dies aged 64. Ox/cow rates finish the year at 535/460c.

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